The Legal Stuff ($399)
Frequently, this is the last thing on an entrepreneur’s mind. However, ensuring you have laid the proper legal framework for growth and longevity is paramount to success as an entrepreneur. First Base
can accomplish all of your needs and costs just $300.
They will help you form a C-Corporation, walk you through each step of incorporation, answer common questions, and make sure you have all the info you need. Everything happens online, and you can be up and running in as little as three days.
Not only will they get you up and running, but they will also help you set up your company, establish bylaws, appoint board members, and limit founder liability. Their software will help you manage your cap table, develop legal agreements, define relationships for contractors and advisors, protect confidential information with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and update your board membership, all via simple online signatures.
Instead of a costly attorney (which you will still need later), you can get started with a simple $399 investment. Once you’re finished, you’ll have the legal vehicle you need to raise funding.
The Infrastructure ($780)
Intelligently scaling your business does not need to be hard. When you get started, you need a few basic things. Most companies need hosting, professional email, business productivity software, phone system, accounting software, invoicing system, and banking service. A lean startup can leverage the amazing ecosystem around them to efficiently acquire all of these services for less than a thousand dollars.
People love to hate on Amazon, and there are many other options to choose from. I’ve used everything from Azure to Squarespace, and continue to use a variety of services for different tasks. Even Google offers the Google Cloud Platform (“GCP”) that can be well-suited for some development initiatives. Depending on the business you’re running, your hosting solution need not be as expensive as AWS. This blog is hosted on GoDaddy because it is cheap, and it’s not a huge deal if you show up and this site is down for whatever reason, unlike our SaaS platform. That said, I’ll give you one guess as to who GoDaddy uses for their hosting.
AWS is a good example of the beauty of cloud services. The cloud may not be ideal or even what you need down the road, but unless you are doing something very special or very secret, it makes the most sense for bootstrapping.
AWS enables you to select the operating system, programming language, web application platform, database, and other services you need. With AWS, you receive a virtual environment that lets you load the software and services your application requires. This eases the migration process for existing applications while preserving options for building new solutions. Using AWS tools, Auto Scaling, and Elastic Load Balancing, your application can scale up or down based on demand. Backed by Amazon’s massive infrastructure, you have access to compute and storage resources when you need them.
Google Workspace (aka GSuite) is one of my favorite products in the world. I feel strongly about this because I feel it’s as close as you can get to democratizing the experience of building a brand or a company. GSuite significantly reduces the barrier to entry for new companies by providing a simple and cost-effective solution that integrates seamlessly with a wide range of supporting products.
GSuite delivers professional email, productivity software, high-end security, simple administrative tools, cloud storage, and a bevy of developer resources, all for one low price. Onboarding is very easy, customer support is fantastic, and the platform integrates with the larger ecosystem of software tools you need to run a company.
Financial Stuff & Operations ($500 – $1,400)
Quickbooks is an easy-to-set-up solution that provides you with a POS system and accounting tools. The cloud-based system can help you run payroll, manage taxes and keep your accounting organized. You can match transactions to expenses, understand your profits, and stay prepared for tax time.
Unless you’re actually a full-time CPA, I recommend using the online version. Using the desktop version will only bring you pain. Hire a professional to take care of the rest.
OpenPhone is on a mission to help people communicate better and be more productive. They’re rethinking the phone experience and offering a platform that doesn’t sacrifice quality for features. It’s intrinsically simple and familiar, but also innovative and powerful. You can get everything you need to look and sound professional for $10/user.
With Mercury bank, you can get full-stack bank accounts online. Open FDIC-insured bank accounts with API access, virtual cards, team management, and a lot more.
You can use Mercury Treasury to put your extra cash into U.S. Government securities and money market funds to improve yield and security. They also provide detailed accounting tools, the virtual cards are useful for setting spending limits, and the wire service is fast and easy.
With remote work being the norm rather than the exception, getting on an easy-to-setup, easy-to-manage project management tool is essential for tracking productivity and holding your team members accountable for deliverables. Your startup needs to be a family of doers. I don’t think there’s ever been a productivity software that was universally loved, but Asana is a longstanding and trusted player, it’s affordable, and it has everything you need to manage multiple projects and users without a crazy learning curve.
Speaking of remote work, slack is the best way to communicate with your remote team and contractors. You can get started for free, and add all of your vendors and clients as guests. Conceptually, slack is a massive improvement over email because it allows for channel-based communication. People can be added or removed from channels accordingly, and they can see earlier message history if the channel is public. Direct messages are also available, so private conversations can still happen as needed.
If you’re doing Ecommerce, or even brick and mortar commerce, Shopify is by far the easiest place to get started. It’s also brilliantly supported by a marketplace of hundreds (maybe thousands) of software developers who have built custom tools that extend Shopify’s capabilities. New add-ons are being built all the time, which means committing to Shopify will set you up for future growth very well. Pricing scales based on usage.
If you’re accepting payments, it’s time for you to get to know Stripe. It’s super developer-friendly and there are no monthly fees. There are other credit card processors out there with better processing rates, but getting to market faster—and the amount of time and money you will save on your engineering team—will more than make up for it. They’re also coming out with full stack tools of their own like Treasury (banking as a service), Atlas (startup incorporation), Climate (carbon removal), and more.
The Creative Stuff ($387)
When you purchase or transfer a domain name to Google Domains, privacy is almost always included. Google will cover the cost of keeping your details private. Over the next few years, hundreds of new domain name endings like .guru and .photography will become available. Google is working to provide users with as many options as possible so you can find the most relevant and meaningful names as you get started online.
Additionally, when you use Google Domains, you get to use the same DNS servers as Google. This means your domain name will connect quickly and reliably to your website. Google includes 10 million resolutions per year for each domain you register with Google Domains.
We love google domains because of the usability, quality technology, and the fact that they don’t try to endlessly upsell you on services. The interface is clean and very user-friendly.
That said, if you go with AWS for infrastructure, we also recommend Route53
as an option because of how easy they make it to set up the domain on AWS.
Not the artistic type? There is a fine line to walk between hiring a college kid on Fiverr and hiring a proper artist. Eventually, you will need a designer and an artist to work on your brand, but to get started, you may want to consider Logotournament. High-quality artists will compete for your prize and business.
The platform is a great example of the beauty of crowdsourcing. Talent marketplaces are a dime a dozen, but LogoTournament really delivers on its central value proposition. You decide how much you want to put up for the prize, then people will compete for your businesses. It’s simple, effective, and a great way to get a ton of options for your logo.
One of the greatest downfalls of entrepreneurs is thinking they need to do everything themselves. Envato Market is a terrific resource when you are bootstrapping and in need of design or code assets. You can pick up everything here, from beautiful poster templates to useful scripts for billing or invoicing customers.
Figma is the more collaborative prototyping and design tool out there. It’s no wonder that it’s growing faster than any other design platform. There is a large community of plugin developers as well, so finding free illustrations is a breeze. Check out blush.design
as an example.
This tool is great for creating your own basic collateral. You can choose from templates and get ad ideas quickly and easily. It’s very user-friendly, and early on, your creativity won’t be seen by many people, so it’s okay to DIY to get started.
This part is on you. If you are prepared to do the work, $3k is all the seed money you really need to get rolling. It will certainly get you through your first build so you can go fundraise. If your idea or platform is exceptional, you will be able to bootstrap your way into some early revenue, which you can then leverage into improving the bare-bones structure that I’ve outlined here.
Want access to more insights like this? If you’re interested in starting a company, consider signing up for the Granite City Accelerator. We will help you plan your tech stack, do a deep dive into no-code tools, and help you strategize around fundraising, all at no cost to you.
If you don’t happen to have an extra $3k, and that’s all that stands between you and your dreams, consider working with friends, family, or a microfinance company to get things rolling. Open Capital
is also a great resource that we’ve developed for this purpose, and you can apply for our BETA here
connects founders to grant funding which is non-dilutive (learn more about that by signing up here) and requires no repayment.